FreeWheel, Google Wrestle Over ViacomCBS Ad Tech

ViacomCBS is considering consolidating its ad tech vendors and Comcast’s FreeWheel and Google are expected to pitch for the business.

Viacom has worked with FreeWheel while CBS has been using Google. Both companies, which completed their merger last week, have growing digital video businesses.

A ViacomCBS spokesperson declined to comment, but one source familiar with the situation said that while both companies were happy with their respective vendors, it makes sense to have a single tech platform in order to be able to provide clients with campaigns that can access all of ViacomCBS’s ad inventory.

The source indicated that post-merger, all of the company’s departments are being examined for cost savings and all vendor relationships are being reviewed.

CBS’s Jo Ann Ross was named president and chief advertising officer for the combined company. John Halley, who oversaw Viacom’s Advanced Marketing Solutions unit, reports to Ross as COO, ad revenue and executive VP at AMS.

ViacomCBS management has promised Wall Street that the merger would result in $500 million in cost synergies.

CBS’s networks have joined the OpenAP market, which aims to standardize data-driven targeted ad buys. Viacom had been a founder of OpenAP, along with Fox and Turner.

When Turner was acquired by AT&T, it pulled out of OpenAP in order to focus its advanced-advertising activity at Xandr, AT&T’s data and advertising unit.

In many ways, Xandr, Google and FreeWheel are fighting among themselves to be the dominant ad-tech provider as that market consolidates.

In November 2018, The Walt Disney Co. made a deal to use Google’s technology platform.

At the time, the companies said the agreement would deliver a premium offering to market that leverages the value of Disney’s brands and content and combines them with Google’s technology, reach, expertise and understanding of digital offices. Disney’s digital ad business was previously handled by FreeWheel.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.